Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thoughts about being Average

I have never claimed to be average. I have no ambition to be average or normal. To me, if you ran the statistics on domestic violence, drug abuse, cigarette smoking, alcoholism, cardiovascular disease, and the use of chemical herbicides, and insecticides, all would be average and normal. The family which practices Non-Violent Communication, eats healthy home-cooked food, avoids plastics, walks or rides a bike instead of burning fossil fuel, and pulls their weeds is not at all average.

I do everything I can to try to slow climate change. I admit, I drive a gasoline-powered car, but can't afford a hybrid or electric car. I get around town on my bike for most errands and only use my car when I have to haul freight or travel in the rain or dark of night.  I dream of a biodiesel SUV, but current regulations prohibit such vehicles into the USA.  I waited 2 decades for a front loading washing machine to be permitted into the USA; I am already a decade into waiting for my biodiesel SUV.

In addition, I am slowly phasing plastic out of my life. Plastic is difficult since nearly all tools and appliances are made with plastic nowadays, and single-use plastic bags have been banned in the State for a year already. Garbage bags are one of those things that are hard to shift away from plastic. I commonly reuse single-use plastic bags to line my garbage cans. As such, I brought about 150 single-use grocery bags from my sister's home in another state. That number of bags should have been sufficient for 5-10 years of garbage pail liners.

Part of the regime includes recycling. All food waste goes into the compost, which we use to fertilize our crops.  Meat bones go into the curbside yard waste bins. Our town recycles everything except plastic bags and Styrofoam, which have to go into the landfill waste. The waste management company not only pastes a large label to the recycle bin explaining what can be recycled and how, but also sends similar announcements in the mail. One such notice is attached to our refrigerator to remind everyone. Even our waste management company suggests we rinse the food waste off of the recycle items in this devastating drought using gray water.  So we have a gray water catch basin in one side of the double sink with a hand-held ladle for use in rinsing recyclables and dishes destined for the dishwasher in the other sink.

At election time, I collect all the voting literature in a big pile on the kitchen table. I collect the opinions of the various newspapers and political action groups and add them to the pile. Then I schedule a few days with my sons to sit around the kitchen table studying the pros and cons of every candidate and initiative, until we all fill out our ballots together.  I have come to understand that traveling short distances by bicycle, avoiding plastic, reusing plastic bags, recycling, composting, use of gray water, and studying the ballot before voting are not average but rather exceptional.  

The purpose of this lengthy prologue is to introduce our new housemate. He is part Native American, but doesn't know what tribe. He feels a kinship with green-growing things and talks in sacred terms about "ceremony." Yet, he lives on an egg farm a buys his eggs from the grocery store.  He uses a roll of toilet paper a day but declines to purchase toilet paper made from recycled material.  When our new housemate saw my sons and I studying the voting literature, he remarked that "nobody does that." I assumed he meant that he has never seen anyone do that. He meant that he has never himself done that. He said that the "average person" doesn't study up on the issues before voting. I think he is right. It makes me wonder why the government and all the newspapers even give us all this reading material if no one bothers to read it. I am perplexed.

After several months of gently orienting the new housemate to recycling and the use of gray water, I find him doing a laundry every day with just a few rags and not a full load. I find soiled cans in the trash and plastic bags in the recycle bin, and the gray water will be polluted with grease and food waste requiring even more water just to clean the gray water basin. He takes at least one shower per day and flushes the toilet more than 10 times/day. He has already depleted my imported bag supply and had to buy a box of plastic bags from the store to replenish the supply. He takes the garbage out daily needing daily replacements of plastic garbage bags. All the food he buys is wrapped in individual plastic packages, and throws his CRV (return deposit) beverage containers in the trash. It is beyond his comprehension why we should conserve on plastic bags, let alone recycle according to the city requirements. Every day I pick food and cans out of the garbage, plastic bags out of the recycling. My new housemate smiles and lies to me saying he will try to get it right next time. After all, it is written in his lease that he must recycle according to the city's requirements.

The housemate contends that the "average" person doesn't do any of this. He states he is a "team player," and if the majority don't bother recycling, composting, conserving water or reducing the use of plastic, then it wastes his time to do otherwise. I was astounded at his use of wasting time as the reason not to recycle since he wastes a lot of my time talking about himself to me. I have known this man casually for many years and am well aware that most of what he says is rhetoric. In essence, he will sit for an hour watching me pick his soiled cans out of the garbage and rinse them with gray water while he goes on and on about himself, his family, his extended family, the farm in which he feels a kinship, the construction jobs he is so proud of, and his health issues. I have heard it all before. But he doesn't have time to rinse the cans out himself because he is a "team player," his team being the unknown "average" people whom he assumes never comply with the policies, laws or rules. 

In a certain sense, he is right. The average person doesn't connect their car trip to the corner store, their garbage full of plastic wrappers, single portion wrapped food items, disposable plastic eating ware, daily showers or toilet flushes with the melting ice caps, the continent of plastic in the middle of the Pacific Ocean or the fact that their citrus trees and bougainvilleas froze to death last winter or that the shoreline parking lots are now flooded.

Here is a word about ignorance. Ignorance is the condition of ignoring. To ignore is to know the facts and choose to not take heed of them. It is one thing to be a baby never having been exposed to the information. One would refer to such baby as being ignorant but in fact they are uninformed. They can't ignore what they have never known. It is entirely another case when every package of cigarettes has a lethal warning on the side and a person smokes them anyway. It is another thing when a diabetic eats a doughnut, or someone with lactose intolerance has a root beer float, or if a woman votes for a candidate who proudly admits to sexual abuse.

So, I have to conclude that my new housemate is right. The average person ignores the facts.
It is the topic for another essay what drives the average person if not facts and regard for their own welfare and the welfare of their community. And if it is isolated to the USA or if this kind of ignorance is worldwide. And if it is unique to this time in history, or if the use by people in power to convince the average person to ignore the facts has always been used throughout recorded time. And why people prefer ignorance when given a choice. All topics too extensive for today's exploration of what is average.

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